Creating Self-Portraits in Mixed Media: A Look Within

It’s difficult not to let who you are and what you’re feeling influence the artwork you create. Every aspect of it is driven by your tastes, history, opinions, culture, and so much more. This is especially so when it comes to self-portraits. When we look at a self-portrait, we get a glimpse of what the artist was feeling or thinking at the time the piece was created. We interpret their emotional state or intentions, based on our perceptions.

Mime (7.5×10) by Linda Edkins Wyatt, featured in
Mixed-Media Self Portraits

Drawing a self-portrait is challenging, but it’s an exercise that will increase your art skills and bring more awareness of your self. How do others perceive you? More importantly, how do you perceive yourself? Mixed-Media Self Portraits: Inspiration and Techniques is a resource that invites you to delve into self-portraiture, to experiment with a variety of exercises, and to learn new ways to create self-portraits that embody what you want to say. If you’re new to self-portraiture, I think you’ll find the following lesson helpful. It’s included in Mixed-Media Self Portraits, which also features other step-by-step articles and ideas.

Featured at right: “The idea here was to express the way women use makeup to either enhance their beauty or cover up imperfections,” says artist Linda Edkins Wyatt. “I used the collage photo, printed on textured watercolor paper, without any filter. Half the face was painted with white acrylic and has elaborate rainbow eye makeup applied with watercolors, acrylics, colored pencils, and markers. The left side has a less dramatic eye treatment; the skin seems red and irritated, with tired and pale eyes, and stitches to indicate wrinkles and fatigue. It begs the question ‘What is hiding behind the painted face?’”

How to Draw a Self-Portrait by Kelli Perkins

This exercise gives you a simple tool for drawing your own face while at the same time revealing information about your face’s shape and its features that can be helpful in future portraits. What you see as you draw may be very different from what you “see” when you look in the mirror or at a photograph. Are the eyes located in the top third of the face or more toward the center? How does your hairline shape your face? How can you capture the shape of your nose? If you do the exercise a second time, does anything change? Studying your face in this way can help you be more objective about your looks, moving you beyond self-consciousness into self-portraiture.

Practice drawing your image on a transparency until you get a feel
for the shape of your face and proportions of your features. Once you’re
satisfied with a drawing, outline it with a medium-point permanent
marker to give it definition.

1. Find a mirror in your house to which you can get close or set up a mirror on a table. You must be able to see your whole face in the mirror. You should be no more than a few inches away so that your reflection is large enough to work with. Settle into a chair and find something to act as an armrest so your body can remain still while you draw.

2. Securely tape a transparency sheet to the mirror where your face is reflected. Close one eye and keep it closed throughout this process. With a fine permanent marker, dot the transparency where one of your nostrils is so you can keep your head lined up with it while you work.You will need to constantly readjust to this dot as your eye moves away from the dot to follow the lines you are drawing.

With the marker, trace your face and hair and outline your individual features. Finish with your shoulders and neckline. Don’t be discouraged if your first attempt is not successful. Try different lighting and experiment with your proximity to the mirror. Have extra transparencies on hand with which to work.

3. Remove the transparency from the mirror and look at it. Note some essential things about your face. What is its basic shape? Is it round, oval, or square? What is the shape of your hair? Look at the placement of your eyes—do they sit high on your face or low? What is the shape of your nose? Look at your mouth—is one lip bigger than the other? What is the arch of your eyebrows? Compare your face with other faces to get a sense of how your features are uniquely arranged. Take a medium-point marker and go over the fine lines to even them out and make your portrait bolder.

4. Turn the transparency over so that you are no longer looking at your mirror image; you are observing your face the same way another person who is facing you does. I thought my self-portraits were out of whack until someone reminded me that mirror images are reversed! Tape the transparency to a window with a piece of drawing paper on top of it. Use the mirror drawing to sketch your face. Try drawing it in a single line or two, and repeat until you get a feeling for the proportions of your face. ~ K.P.

In addition to lessons like this, Mixed-Media Self Portraits features introspective essays and fun exercises, and it’s part of the Interweave “25% off the top 25 best sellers” sale. With these resources, you can create a variety of unique art that shows who you are, inside or out.

Yours in art,

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